Your Tuition Dollars at Work

Parents work pretty hard to put their kids through college, or to help their kids attend college.

And if those kids happen to attend Rutgers, a state university in New Jersey, they ran across this in the course listings for last year’s summer session:

01:988:250:B1 and H1 Feminist Perspectives: Politicizing Beyoncé

MW 1:15-5:15 May 27–July 3 SC-201 CAC 

MW 1:45-5:25 July 7–August 13 SC-121 CAC 

Instructor: Kevin Allred

Beyoncé Knowles-Carter is known as many things: singer, songwriter, actress, performer, half of hip hop and R&B’s most powerful couple, even fashion designer. But few take her seriously as a political figure. This course will attempt to think about our contemporary U.S. society and its current class, racial, gender, and sexual politics through the music and career of Beyoncé. On the surface, she might deploy messages about race, gender, class, and sexuality that appear conservative in relation to social norms, but during this course we will ask: how does she also challenge our very understanding of these categories? How does Beyoncé push the boundaries of these categories to make space for and embrace other perhaps more “deviant” bodies, desires, and/or politics? We will attempt to position Beyoncé as a progressive, feminist, and even queer figure through close examination of her music alongside readings on political issues, both contemporary and historical. We will juxtapose Beyoncé’s music with writings on black feminism and the black female experience in the U.S. (and beyond), to attempt to answer: can Beyoncé’s music be seen as a blueprint for progressive social change?

You’re reading that correctly:  a course in all things Beyonce!

The course was in the news when the instructor, Kevin Allred, complained that the university’s women’s and gender studies department canceled his course. Nonsense, university officials replied: all they did was move it to the American Studies department.

The teacher took his complaints public:

beyonceThere’s been a changeover in the leadership of the department, and the new undergraduate director doesn’t want to offer the course anymore. There’s not really been an official reason given to me. But, of course, I have speculation on different reasons why they don’t want to offer it.

Um, maybe because it’s ridiculous?

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that

Allred said it seemed to him that the department was “wanting to be very traditionally academic – it’s an old-school, old-guard kind of thing, it feels to me, like Beyoncé shouldn’t be used to get people in the seats, Beyoncé’s not worthy of academic study, that kind of thing.”

And if believing that Beyonce is “not worthy of study” makes the school “very traditionally academic,” then for once, The Curmudgeon will cast his vote with tradition.

Still, The Curmudgeon suspects Rutgers is a lost cause, as demonstrated by the response of the head of the school’s American Studies department, again as reported by the Inquirer:

The university statement included a quote from Louis Masur, acting chair of American studies: “Politicizing Beyoncé fits beautifully with the current American studies curriculum, where we also offer courses in the History of Hip-Hop, Bruce Springsteen’s American Vision, and Spike Lee.”

The Curmudgeon, who regrets attending college, finds himself at least taking comfort in knowing that the college he attended, which he didn’t care for, was a serious place for serious people to study serious things.

And not like the extended kindergarten for teenagers that Rutgers apparently has become.

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